BARCELONA • It may be early in the Formula One season, but Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas is slowly but surely staking his claim to be a title contender, after clinching his third successive pole this campaign for today's Spanish Grand Prix.
Winner of the Azerbaijan GP two weeks ago, Bottas, who with teammate and five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton have two victories each this term, continued his scintillating form at the Circuit de Catalunya yesterday.
What was more impressive was that he spun into a gravel trap during the final practice, but did not let the incident get to him.
"I really enjoyed it. I enjoy the adrenaline rush you get from those laps, so I'm really pleased," Bottas said. "Practice three was difficult with the spin, but I forgot about that and moved on.
"The season has started well. I feel better and better in the car, so I look forward to tomorrow."
It was a ninth career pole for the Finn, the sole driver to dip below 1min 16sec as he outpaced Hamilton by 0.634 seconds.
"Valtteri did a fantastic job. On my side, I didn't put the laps together. Ultimately, I didn't do the job," said Hamilton. "But it's great for the team to have a 1-2, if I can reverse it tomorrow I'll be happy."
Former British driver Martin Brundle, now a Sky Sports pundit, said: "Big statement from Bottas after his error in practice three and a stunning lap time - on pole by six-tenths of a second."
With Hamilton second, it gave Mercedes another front-row lock-out and suggested this year's title race may become a duel between the two Silver Arrows.
SPANISH GP GRID
1 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
3 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
4 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
5 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari
6 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Red Bull
7 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas
8 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas
9 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso
10 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault
Bottas is leading the drivers' standings on 87 points, one ahead of Hamilton. Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari is third on 52 points, one more than Max Verstappen of Red Bull.
Vettel qualified third yesterday, ahead of Verstappen, Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari and Pierre Gasly in the second Red Bull.
"I think we got everything out of the car. I'm happy, but not happy," said Vettel. "The car doesn't feel bad but obviously we are not quick enough.
"In balance I think we got it right. In these sort of corners you just need the grip, and I think we might be a bit down on that."
F1 SPANISH GRAND PRIX
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